Why companies around the globe are watching Infosys

Reproduced with the permission of The Australian.

Robert Gottliebsen, 9 Jun, 2015

How do you prepare a major multinational company for a new way of doing business while making sure it does not become a Kodak? It’s a task that many large and small enterprises will face in the next five years.

That’s why the massive directional change being undertaken by Indian technology giant Infosys will be watched closely around the world: because few of its peers have mastered such a move.

Infosys built its business on solving software and other technology problems that its customers brought to it. That task remains the company’s core business but Infosys believes that its long-term success will require mastering a different strategy.

Its first step was to separate out its products, platforms and solutions business under the banner of EdgeVerve to spearhead the new direction. Infosys senior vice-president and global head of consulting and EdgeVerve new CEO is Sanjay Purohit and last week when Stephen Bartholomeusz and myself interviewed Purohit, he revealed that globally 28,000 executives are now being re-trained -- a training exercise that has few parallels in the world. And while Infosys is emphasising a new approach to business, that direction is embracing the changes that artificial intelligence and robots are about to deliver -- a technology-imminent revolution that was set out at the ADC Leadership Retreat on Hayman Island. I have linked to my coverage at the end of this article.

Infosys is one of the great Indian technology success stories yet it believes it needs to introduce a new business model. Australian companies will also need to understand the new way of business thinking.

Purohit confirms that classically the Infosys customer has defined the problems for Infosys to answer. In the new environment, Infosys now must be much more effective in defining the problems to be faced by customers and so needs to embrace design thinking “in a very big way”.

Purohit says: “Design thinking requires you to go beyond the known and try and look at very, very, very different ways of understanding consumer needs.” Infosys must address and create new kinds of consumer experiences.

“And so we have launched a huge strategy, in partnership with Stanford Design School, to look at how we can completely change the way significant problems are looked at and how problems are defined. We believe we have the ability to not only solve problems … but actually define some of the most interesting problems of our times and then work with our clients across different markets to solve them.”

In this context I raised the question of what a bank might look like in, say, five years’ time.

Purohit said: “The classical reflex of defining the problems of the future is to relate them to industry -- the retailer of the future, the bank of the future, the manufacturer of the future.

“But I think it’s important to take that question even beyond and look at what are the kinds of experiences that humans will deal with. I think what’s most important for us is to understand more and more as to what kinds of human experiences would need to be imagined and executed.

“And in those experiences of how people lead their lives what would be the role of the bank, the role of the retailer, the role of the manufacturer and hence the question actually to deal with is what kind of human experiences should we be looking forward to.

“Let’s look at what’s the role that the different industries would play in improving human experience … how would the intersection of retail, banking, manufacturing, insurance, life sciences … change how people lead their lives.

“It’s very difficult to define a bank as a bank anymore. Is the bank really a bank or is it a technology company? Or is it tending towards becoming a retail company? Or does it have different characteristics?”

The essence of what Purohit is saying is that enterprises like banks must work out what their role should be and how that role fits into the needs of the customers. From that simple proposition -- what is the future role of banks? -- comes a whole new design culture. And what we are seeing here is not only are banks redefining themselves but so are technology companies.

Meanwhile India is looking to skip several generations of technology and create a digital countrywide network based on mobile -- Australia’s version of the national Broadband network without cables.